Additional Math Pages & Resources

Monday, April 2, 2012

Getting Current with Currency

On this day (April 2) in 1914, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board announced plans to divide the country into 12 districts. There are twelve different Federal Reserve Banks responsible for printing paper money in the United States.

In Excel Math, students learn to count currency, calculate change due after a purchase, create their own word problems using coins and bills, add and subtract various denominations of money, and lots more math-related concepts. Elementary math students learn skills they can apply to their own lives now and in the future.

Today let's look at some of the information found on dollar bills. Did you know your money can tell you where it was printed?

If you look closely at your one (or two) dollar bill, you will see a letter code in the Federal Reserve Seal to the left of the portrait of George Washington (Thomas Jefferson on the two dollar bill). The letter code is also found in the prefix of the serial number:

On bills of higher denominations, the bank can be  identified by a letter followed by a number  just to the left of the Federal Reserve seal. Can you find it on this five dollar bill? (The answer is shown below.)

These are the bank codes and the cities where they are located:

Reserve Bank Letter Designation
New YorkB2
St. LouisH8
Kansas CityJ10
San FranciscoL12

So G7 on the five dollar bill pictured above tells us that it was printed in Chicago.

We've given you a free math worksheet you can hand out to your students to help them learn about the information on dollar bills. Click here for a larger view and to print a PDF for your class:
Manipulative Worksheet from Excel Math Fourth Grade Teacher Edition
Hand out a sheet (or a half sheet cut vertically) to each student. Let the students cut out the bills and sort them into piles according to denomination. Have them look at a one dollar bill and find the Federal Reserve District letter in the seal. Show them the chart of banks and let them determine where the bill was printed. Do the same with the two dollar bill.

Let the students count their money. Ask them to set aside three dollars and then decide how much they have left. Have them return two dollars to the original pile and let you know how much it contains now. If you have time, give your students a chance to locate some of the other features on their one and two dollar bills. Here are some additional items of interest found on dollar bills:

The serial number of a bill appears twice—once on the lower left and again on the upper right of the one and two dollar bills. The numbers are in the upper left and lower right of bills of higher denominations (such as the five dollar bill shown above). The letter that precedes the numbers is the same number that identifies the Federal Reserve Bank. The last letter of the serial number identifies the number of times that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing used the sequence of serial numbers. For example, A= the first time, B = the second time, C = the third time, Z = the 26th time, etc. With one run for each letter of the alphabet (26) and 32 bills per run, there are a total of 832 bills per serial number.

For more fun facts about U.S. currency, visit You can find additional lesson plans and classroom activities on money at the Federal Reserve website: There you can search for lessons by grade level (K-12 plus college and adult) and topic.

To find out more about how Excel Math helps elementary students learn and remember the concepts taught (with its unique spiraling system), visit

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